The gift of thorns

I would never desire a bed of roses, even for just one night. No matter how sweet it might smell or how soft it might would be. Whenever I think about such a thing I am reminded of the little rose garden we have in our backyard. There we have a rose bush called a Cinnamon Rose Bush. Now I don’t know if it is every cinnamon bush that is like this or just ours but this thing is covered with thorns. Just to get it out of that plastic tub it came in I had to wear leather welding gloves and I still felt like I was getting poked. It seems to me that even the thorns have thorns on them. So with that image in mind logically, to me, a bed of roses is going to have thorns in it.

Thorns aren’t bad though. No, we don’t like to be stuck by one but that is just the thorn doing it’s job. Thorns are there to protect the plant. Roses are a pretty good source of Vitamin C so it stands to reason that animals would want to get to that vitamin. With a fallen nature the animals would overdo it and there would be no more rose. The sweet smell would be gone and it’s beauty lost forever. Having thorns protects the plant from such wanton destruction.

Thorns are a gift from God. They weren’t there originally. It took man giving into sin for thorns to appear. We read in Genesis 3:17,18 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee…” Cursed is the ground for our sakes, not as torture mind you. The thorns were brought about to protect us. Protect us from abusing God’s grace. He could have rightfully killed Adam and Eve then and there but He extended grace. Life is pain and the thorns remind us how much worse it can be. Those little pricks help stear us when temptation is brewing. We can either choose to listen or suffer their wrath. 

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Objects in mirror are closer than they appear

As I was sitting in the passenger seat of our car waiting for my wife to return from a store I noticed our side mirror. On it was printed these words “OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR” and it caught my attention. I have been driving for over twenty years professionally and even longer on a regular basis but it has been a while sense I have paid close attention to those words. When I am driving by habit I incorporate those words into my decisions but nothing more. Their warning is clear and all, but long ago I stopped reading them.

It got me to thinking about James 1:23,24 and the clear warning the apostle is giving us. Those verses say this “For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:  For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. That word glass can also be translated mirror. We look into the mirror and see what needs to be seen. What do we do with that information though? I fear far too many Christians are on autopilot, we hear the sermon or do our Bible reading and yet instead of applying what information the mirror of God’s word gives us we just keep on doing as we please. And that is the trouble. Even if we recognize that the potential exists for problems to arise we are on autopilot, stuck in our habit, or what not and fail to realize just how close to a wreck, to sin, we are until it is too late. The mirror told us it was closer than we thought but we thought better of our human self. For example, we see that sin and we can handle it or God tells us to do something and we think we have plenty of time to do it. Turns out the mirror was right and we were wrong.

The mirror also makes no bones about it’s message either. In bold letters it declares OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR. Aside from the possibility of sin I can think of two other things that message can allude to for us the reader. One is that of the destination. In that mirror I can see part of the store my wife went into and when she returns I can see her. Jesus said He will return for us (John 14:3). The mirror of His word tells us this clearly. Secondly because I am close enough to read the message I must be close enough to use it. Which reminds me of a promise made back in Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” No matter how far away a child of God gets away from Him we are still closer to Him than we think! Just a prayer away. It’s just a matter of remembering Jesus will always take us back.

Get all you can

I was thinking the other day about what advice I would share with a young preacher who was just starting out. Three things came to mind. Each of which I wish someone had shared with me when I first started out. While I don’t know the extent of the change it would have made for me I know the right advice would have gone a long way.

My first piece of advice would be this. When it comes to what a God called man is to preach, God has already told you what to preach. He has given you 66 books in one volume called the Bible. Stay on your knees in prayer with your nose in the good book. You don’t have to look for the eight-run home run sermon, just give ’em Jesus.

The second piece of advice would be in regards to opportunity. That is, take advantage of every opportunity. Don’t hide behind the line that you are not good enough yet to go out somewhere, that you need more seasoning. If God called you and you have been faithful to study and not just have opinions and traditions then God will be with you. A young preacher may not feel up to the challenge of an invitation, but I would urge them to take it. The opportunity they pass on may be the same one someone like me would be begging to have.

Lastly, and just as importantly as the first two. Please young preacher ask questions. Don’t just assume that the older more experienced preachers will just open up the flood gates of knowledge to you of their own accord. They tend to not remember how it was to be that inexperienced. There is knowledge and wisdom there but you most likely will have to tap into it yourself verses them taking you under their wing.

I am reminded of what Paul wrote over in 2 Timothy 2:2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. Paul just listed four generations in this one verse. How much Paul brought out on his own verses how muxh Timothy had to dig out of the apostle on his own I don’t know, doesn’t matter anyway. The point is that there was knowledge there and each preacher has the responsibility to get all that he can and pass on all that he can.

It should have already been done

So after several days of below normal cold weather that basically guaranteed Northwest Indiana a white Christmas, the temperature has risen above freezing. That or course means the compacted snow and ice are starting to melt a little. The resulting slush is heavy but it can be moved if necessary.

At our depot the snow removal crew did a lousy job of keeping up with the snow before our cars started showing up. That lead to everything still being covered with that same compacted snow. Now with the warmer temp my boss decided to go out and try to shovel some of it himself. Soon as I could I went out and took over, he has a heart condition. While I was out there I could actually see the guys playing around with their equipment and yeah it burned me a little because I was now doing what should have already been done.

It got me to thinking about the Apostle Paul and the church at Corinth. When one reads these two letters you kind of get the impression he was a little steamed himself at this bunch. There is a great deal of doctrine in those two letters but also a great deal of correction for those folks. In fact as you read 1st & 2nd Corinthians you come to realize this is more likely 2nd & 4th Corinthians with possibly a little bit of 3rd Corinthians added in. Paul was time and time again dealing with stuff at this church that should have been done already. People were on sight who shpuld have known better but it just wasn’t happening. They all had a heart condition, their hearts wanted to act worldly and not saintly so Paul had to step in yet again.

How many of us act that exact same way? Far too many I am afraid. God sends messengers to correct us and we straighten up for a couple of minutes. Then boom! Back to our “normal” whixh is no good. Let’s try to get ourselves right with God before He has to deal with us again on the same matter.

Getting along

I heard a preacher say one time that we had best learn to get along with our co-workers because if we don’t God will make sure you two get stuck together. With that in mind I must confess that there is a group of men where I work that I don’t see eye to eye with. For the record I am a union member, where I work is a union business, my local is in need of more members, and I was always taught that if you work at a union shop you must be a union member. Long story short this group of guys are not union member, which puts me at odds with them.

However over the past few months I have had to deal directly with them more than normal. Yes they are just as human as I am, which is no surprise, but they are still non-union workers in a union shop but I am getting over that. I can’t change what they are but I can work with them, even dare I say work a little with them. As part of my transition back to my normal job I have had my hours changed to where I come in earlier and help our shippers ship the product to the drivers. Part of this new responsibility includes shipping some of their product. For me that is a little weird, bad enough I am shipping but also shipping to these guys!?! We do have a common goal though. All of us want to make a living to support our families.

This got me to thinking about who in the Bible were some “opposites” who had to learn to work together? David and Jonathan come to mind. Jonathan is the crown prince yet he knew David had been choosen by God Himself to be the nect king, 1 Samuel 23:17. These two agreed to work together even though Jonathan knew he was getting the short end of the stick. The over all goal was more important, they knew they had to follow God’s will for their lives and for their nation. 

Still though they didn’t have that difference of opinion like me and the non-union guys. That lead me to think about to of Jesus’ disciples. Matthew the publican and Simon Zealotes. Simon Zealotes was as pro-Israel as you can get while Matthew the publican had “betrayed” Israel by going to work for the Roman’s as one of their tax collector’s. Early on it must have been somewhat uncomfortable for these two to work together. Not even much of a stretch to think that they did their best to be as far apart as possible but still they hung in there. Personally I kinda picture it taking Jesus at the last supper washing everybody’s feet before it really started to click for them. The idea that they have a common goal and a common employer (God). Their past was in the past and now a day would soon come for them when they would work together, Pentecost, both giving out the good news that Jesus saves. Then one day coming to understand that salvation was not just for the Jews but for all mankind, so long as they would accept the free gift. Yeah even those two could get along, they needed common ground and that was found at the foot of the cross.

Breaking the ice

Recently we had a weekend filled with snow. As the weather allowed I did my best to keep up. With my daughter being in a wheelchair it is all the more important that we keep the walkways clear. However it came to the point on Sunday afternoon where I had to go to bed, this meant there would be more snow to shovel when I got up around midnight for work. Sure enough there was about an inch of heavy weight snow. As quickly as I could I cleared a path to our cars and headed off for work.

When I got home though things were different. That heavy weight snow had frozen up due to the drop in temperature. The good news was that everything I had shoveled before work was still clean. While the bad news was the snow plow had come through and pushed some snow back over the section of road that had been cleared dor my daughter to get on and off the bus in her chair. Cars had driven through and the neighbor had also backed over the freezing snow turning it to hardened ice. There was no time to try using salt to melt the ice. Experience had taught me that at this point I need my ice breaker and shovel. That ice breaker would chip away at the ice and the shovel would move the broken off pieces put of the way.

I would love to say I cleared the area of ice by the time my daughter came home, but that wouldn’t be the truth. Still though I did bust up some ice which opened up a little of needed area. Those parts where the ice was too hard I worked on chopping grooves into it to allow our boots a means of gripping the ice instead of only dealing with that super slick surface.

While I was working away I got to thinking about John the Baptist. Over in Mark 1:3 he was described as the “voice of one crying in the wilderness” his call was to “prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” He wasn’t the voice of all nor were multitudes gathered saying the same thing as he was, he was just one voice doing what he could. His task was similar to mine in a way, we both had to prepare the way for the arrival of someone important, it’s just that his person was vastly more important than mine. For the brief amount of time he had John did what he could with what little he had. We actually have more than him as that we have the complete Bible and that Jesus has already come the first time. Whixh brings me to my next point, that being Jesus is coming again soon. It is our duty to prepare the way for Him into people’s hearts. Because the next time He comes for those who are not saved it will be too late. Chip away at the cold hearts with what you got about eternal salvation, it might make all the difference and keeping them from falling into Hell one day.

The other driver’s on the road

Have you ever thought about them, honestly? Yeah we get mad at some moron of a driver and the stunt they just pulled but have we ever given our fellow drivers a moments consideration? Most likely neither have they towards you but we are all still there sharing the same stretch of road.

I was driving to work one day and realized that each car is carrying a different story inside it. There are driver’s in some of those cars who are only concerned with themselves and act in just such a manner. Some driver’s are out there just because they enjoy driving while other’s dread this chore. Work is waiting for a number of these driver’s to arrive while more than we realise are already at work because they drive for a living and not just the trucker’s either. I imagine that there are one or two at the least who are driving simply because they don’t know what else to do with their life at the moment. Maybe someone is celebrating something special or on their way to do that celebrating. While someone may be on their way home from the worst moment in their life.

Solomon wrote in the first eight verses of Ecclesiastes chapter 3 a series of “times”, a rime for this and a time dor that. He had considered the fact that for each of us in our own lives we will have different moments that will effect us and shape our lives. From birth to death he covers the things that will come up. Almoat one could picture him sitting on an overpass of the highway looking at the cars as they speed off under the influence of the time that they are now dealing with in their life. Picturing them as they are at work sowing seed or on the way to the hospital to reap the fruits of their labor whether for the good (such as a child being born) or the bad (as in that moron that got too reckless and had an accident). 

Each moment in time for each person possibly interacting with you in some small way. Yet as Solomon also went on to basically say in the grand scheme of life God’s sovereign will is done just as that highway leads to somewhere. Perhaps next time we are driving along we could give a moments consideration for the other guy. Yeah we know he thinks he is important and just has to get ahead of us, perhaps this time we should gladly let him go and not begrudge him his time.